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Series Preview: Cubs at Pirates

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San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There’s some downright optimism around the Pirates (30-36) right now, with the return of Jameson Taillon, the resurgence of Andrew McCutchen (knock on wood) and two wins over a good Rockies team this week.

For most of the year, the only sign of life on the Pirates was the fact the Cubs hadn’t run away with the NL Central Division. Chicago is still middling in June (7-6). The Cubbies dropped two of three to the Mets this week.

Season Series: 4-2 Pirates

April 14: Pirates 4, Cubs 2

April 15: Pirates 8, Cubs 7

April 16: Pirates 6, Cubs 1

April 24: Cubs 14, Pirates 3

April 25: Cubs 1, Pirates 0

April 26: Pirates 6, Cubs 5

Schedule

Friday, 7:05 p.m. - Eddie Butler (3-2, 4.03 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (3-3, 5.13), TV: Root

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. - Jake Arrieta (6-4, 4.68) vs. Ivan Nova (6-4, 2.83), TV: Fox

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. - John Lackey (4-7, 5.26) vs. Jameson Taillon (3-1, 2.90), TV: Root, MLB Network (out of market)

Cubs

32-33 (33-32 Pythag, 4.68 RS/G, 4.63 RA/G)

Offense

The Cubs position players have amassed 9.1 fWAR, 11th in Major League Baseball and sixth in the National League. There’s a big drop-off after Kris Bryant (2.5 fWAR) and Anthony Rizzo (1.9). Jason Heyward hasn’t been awful, but hasn’t exactly bounced back, either. Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez are all struggling. Rookie Ian Happ (he’s From Here) has hit seven home runs in 28 games. Zobrist has been dealing with a left wrist injury. He missed the last two games and his status is uncertain for Friday.

Pitching

The bullpen, anchored by Wade Davis and Koji Uehara, remains a strength. Davis and Carl Edwards Jr. are both striking out more than 36 percent of batters. The starters, though, aren’t the dominating force they were, ranking 16th in the majors in fWAR (4.2) as a group. Jake Arrieta’s seen improved strikeout and walk numbers from last year, but is giving up more homers (1.36 per nine). John Lackey’s having particular trouble with homers (2.27 per nine). The Cubs rescued former first-round pick Eddie Butler, 26, from the climes of Denver in the offseason, but his strikeouts are still low and his walks are still high. He’s held a spot in the rotation with injuries to Brett Anderson and Kyle Hendricks.

Outlook

This is another one of those series that the optimist in me says, despite all that’s gone on, the Pirates can jump into the race and make something of themselves in 2017. After Trevor Williams, the Pirates have Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon going, and it’s possible they make some noise this weekend. These are still the defending champs, though — did you hear that? — and they’ve knocked the Pirates down a peg on multiple occasions in recent years.

Poll

How does this series go?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    #ThatsBuc Pirates sweep
    (68 votes)
  • 58%
    2-1 Pirates
    (210 votes)
  • 15%
    2-1 Cubs
    (55 votes)
  • 6%
    Cubs sweep
    (24 votes)
357 votes total Vote Now